School board approves vaping policy, clarifies religion policy in schools

Among the school budget items the county commission approved earlier in the week, the Carter County School Board had a few last-minute items to vote on, including $7,975 to expand their Skyward application, allowing the software to be used directly for their book-keeping.

Director of Schools Kevin Ward said this will save the school system money in the long-term. It passed unanimously.

The board also voted to appropriate $30,026.14 for an additional teacher at Happy Valley Middle School, as required by the state.

The board also formally voted in favor of the new vaping policy for the school system, which has consequences including suspension on first offense.

“It is becoming a bad problem in our schools,” Kelly Crain said.

The board also voted to pass the policy on first reading, so it will go into effect when students return to school in January.

Near the end of the meeting, former county commissioner Johnny Lewis spoke about a concern he had after speaking with his grandson, who said the schools were teaching about Islam.

“Is that not violating the court order that we cannot have religion?” Lewis asked the board.

The court order he is referring to is federal law in which public school systems cannot openly support one specific religion over another, a ruling John Banks clarified during the meeting.

“The court order forbids proselytizing,” Banks said. “It is a far cry from studying religions.”

After clarifying Lewis’s grandson was in sixth grade, Ward said this was specifically a world religions class, which spends equal amounts of time on a variety of different religions.

“It is comparative, broad discussion,” Ward said. “There is a Christianity section in the unit.”

He said if the schools were promoting one specific religion, that would be an issue.

On the contrary, Ward said, in his opinion, learning about other religions is a good thing.

“For them to understand any student, for them to understand there are different religions, I think it is a healthy thing,” Ward said. “It is healthy for me to understand what the other types of religions think.”

The next workshop will take place on January 9, and the full board meeting will take place the following week, on January 16.

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